Monday, June 1, 2009

It's the economy - but are we moving on?

So many of us who sell our wares online have had a really slow winter and Spring. When we collectively bemoan that fact, the resounding answer has come in shouts of “It’s the economy. Nobody’s spending money.”

No one in their right mind will argue the point that the economy has taken a blow and, assuming they are in their right mind, most have at least given thought to their spending patterns, even if they haven’t made major changes.

I am lucky. I live in a metro area that has not been hit quite as hard by the employment situation. Sure, quite a few major employers have closed down, cut back or even eliminated hiring, but the unemployment rate in Maryland is among the lowest in the country. Jobs are still not plentiful but there are a few out there in our area - mostly quite technical or medical oriented.

This is not to say, we are not feeling the crunch. A lot of folks are not trained in technical or medical fields and other jobs offer slim pickings here. Most folks have not gotten salary increases, benefits have been altered, grocery prices have skyrocketed, the cost of just about everything has risen. As of today the national average on gasoline has risen to $2.51/gallon. Times are tight.

But…

They DO seem to be spending money. They are just being really selective about what they’re paying for.

Our local movie theater has been full lately. The lines at the ticket booth are long. Is it the bargain prices? I mean, a couple can see a movie any evening for less than $25.00 (a bit higher on weekends) as long as they forego drinks and nibbles. Throw in one large soda and a medium popcorn to share and that price tag leaps to about $36.00. (Yes, I am being a bit sarcastic by using the term “bargain” and , no, I won’t tell you what a movie admission cost when I was young! Let‘s just say, you got enough change from a dollar to buy candy.)

Our restaurants are doing a solid business. I will admit we don’t frequent a lot of four or five star places but the “normal” places like our local microbrewery and pubs, family restaurants like TGIF, Red Lobster, Famous Dave’s, pizza places, etc. are full and there are waiting lines.

The parking lots at the mall and the local shopping center have been fairly full. There are long lines at many of the “off price” stores like TJ Maxx, Ross, Target, etc.

We’ve attended at least two paid entrance events in the last two weeks and the crowds there set records. Literally, thousands of folks turned over $15 a head to simply walk through the gates at these things. For that, they got the right to a plot of land large enough to put the chair (which they brought with them) or their blanket down and sit and hear some free local music. Those same people have turned over a considerable amount of cash to buy refreshments and food at these same events. (We guess the average couple spends at least $70 at these events. Many spend a lot more.)

We have at least two friends who are opening new businesses requiring fairly sizeable start-up money. The real estate market is starting to move a bit as it usually does this time of year. Word is, business is pretty good at the larger craft shows around here. Ocean City, Maryland, the main ocean resort town for the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. crowds set attendance records for Memorial Day weekend (the best crowds since 1996!)

So, have we accepted this economy as “normal” and learned to live with it? I think so. I think most of us have made our personal adjustments and have redefined what we want and when we plan to get it in our lives.

What does all this mean to those of us trying to sell our handmade products? I think it means we need to be more creative both in our designs and in our marketing concepts, we need to work a lot harder to get our fair share of the pie. We are no longer living in that glorious “dot com” style of success where you merely needed to establish yourself on the web and start pulling in the big bucks. Just like a forefathers, we need to get out there and roll up our shirtsleeves, so to speak. Sales can be made but they will require a little more effort.

Nobody ever said it would be easy.

1 comment:

Flight Fancy said...

Very well put! Even in times where folks have to make more conscious choices about their money, they are still spending, and we as business owners need to make ourselves a part of those spending choices. Good marketing, excellent product, and great customer service. Nothing wrong with using some good old fashioned elbow grease!